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Learning Australian Culture through 'Crocodile Dundee'

Discuss About The Australian Films At Large Expanding Evidence.

All my life I have been living in South Korea. It is a wonderful city and I gave always felt like I was a part of it. After completing my graduation I decided to move to Australia for continue my further studies. Before I visited Australia, I did a brief research on the country for my time ahead. My educational course was for about 4 years so I had to prepare myself. I heard about a lot of stereotypical information related to “kangaroos”, “poisonous snakes” and people addressing each other as “mates”. However, my conception towards the country and its people changed when I finally came to Australia. It was a wonderful place, way warmer than South Korea, but still beautiful. To understand their accents was another issue in the beginning. The Australian’s rate of speech was so fast that it is hard to follow (Stoneham, Goodman, & Daube, 2014). During classes, I had difficulties understanding the lectures and I used to miss out taking notes. After I while I decided to get better at learning the accent and myself familiar with it. I tried watching the Australian news and got myself familiar with the accent however I could not feel the proper connection with it. I started reading books which some of my mates from the university suggested me. I learnt a lot about the true history of Australia and I was fascinated by it. After returning from the university, I used to spend my time by reading books. I read about the Indigenous culture of Australia, the Aborigines. I learnt about them and how they were the actual natives of Australia and how they were treated horribly by the non-Indigenous or the white people and they were driven off from the society.


After reading few books, I approached one of my professors from the university and I told her what I was doing. He smiled and said, “Good onya! Why donncha watch some flicks?” Then I understood that she was right, watching a film would give me a much better understanding. I was a film-buff. Back in South Korea I used to spend my time mostly watching movies of Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-wook, Kim Ki-duk and many more directors so I knew that watching popular Australian films would give me a lot of information about the Australian culture and how the people think. So the next day I went to the professor and asked for some suggestions. She told me hat as this my first Aussie film, I should watch a comedy film. The film she gave me was “Crocodile Dundee” directed by an Australian director named Peter Faiman. I was hesitant because I was never a fan of comedy films yet I wanted to watch the film because I was venturing into an unknown territory of films. What mainly differentiates from Korean and Australian films are that most popular Korean films are drama based, whereas Australian films are more action or comedy based (Coate et al., 2017). Aussie directors mainly use the comical advantage of stereotyping the fictional characters of a comedy film. As men referring themselves as “Bloke” or women as “Sheila” and the use of stereotypical subjects like crocodile, kangaroo, dry deserts and  many more. The film also gives a comical landscape to Australia as well New York City.  This is more familiar in the case of Crocodile Dundee.

Men and Women Representation in the Film

Paul Hogan who rose to fame in a very short time from Australian television to the film industry. Hogan stars as Michael Dundee or Crocodile Dundee is a crocodile hunter from a small hamlet located in the Northern Territory of Australia. She film is portrayed from the viewpoints of Sue Charlton, a newspaper writer who receives the information of Crocodile Dundee who has apparently lost half of his leg to a crocodile attack. When Sue arrives at the bar, she meets Walter Reilly the business partner of Dundee who entertains her until Dundee arrives.  The scene at the pub gives an excellent overview about the indigenous culture of Aussie land. There has been many directors over the years those who have given an excellent portrayal of the indigenous culture however what Peter Faiman does is that he highlights the same elements which is faced the indigenous community however in a satirical sense. The pub scene depicts an imagery of multiculturalism as the there are shady blokes located in the pub. The place seems to highlight that it is very unsafe for commoners and Crocodile Dundee seems to be on top of the community. When Dundee entered the bar, Sue noticed that he had both of his legs and there were intact and he possessed a large scar which is basically what Dundee calls a love bite. Paul Hogan shows his leathery dressed Aussie charm as this flamboyant yet comical character. Dundee is obviously a “larger than life” who is able to achieve impossible feats just like what Hollywood does with Chuck Norris or Sylvester Stallone.     

When Dundee meets Sue, she remains unimpressed of his character. However as his character is able to achieve impossible masculine feats like subduing a water buffalo or killing a poisonous snake with his bare hands or beating and driving away a group of kangaroo shooters, Sue slowly begins to falls for him. This is all shown in a comical sense as what I saw is a normal just like any other, however it is the presentation that made a difference. I couldn’t help but laugh at the scene when the kangaroo shooters makes fun of Dundee and insults him as his role of a crocodile hunter, and as a result Dundee knocks out the leader of their group with just one punch.


The character of Sue is shown as a strong woman as when Dundee insults her of saying that “shelia” and will not be able to survive on the jungle all by herself. She tries to prove him wrong and goes out to the Outback by her own. However, a large saltwater crocodile in a billabong attacks her, and in that moment she was rescued by Dundee who was able to save her from the crocodile. There many moments this felt very sexist throughout the film. Despite the fact that this film focuses mainly on shows these elements as comedy, nevertheless it is very sexist (Paradies, 2016). Dundee is shown as an alpha male who is able to achieve impossible deeds though his strength and masculinity whereas Sue was given a moment to shine in the scene where she takes off alone however in the end, she is rescued by Dundee.

Landscape and Settings Depicted in 'Crocodile Dundee'

From this part of the film, Sue develops a romantic interest for Dundee and bring him over to New York city. Being a part of a small-time town in Australia, Dundee has difficulties while adjusting to the city culture. He has trouble when he encounters pimps and robbers however as the hero of the story he is able to overcome the situations. In the end of the film, Sue hesitantly accepts a marriage request to the editor of the newspaper company, Richard Mason however realizes her mistake and runs after Dundee and they kiss in a subway station.

The film does involve many racists and sexist elements throughout the watch. However it does bring the key elements related to the Australian Cinema Industry. Unlike Hollywood, the revival of the Aussie industry began much later in the 1970 (Davies et al., 2013). Which I found after doing more research on the subject and by this time I was no longer just watching Australian films for just the understanding of the Australian culture but because I found an interest for the entire film industry of Australia. There is a reason for that as there were some scenes I could relate to. I am not talking about the masculine character of Dundee or the damsel in distress character of Sue, but there was a connection with the landscape or settings of the film. The scene where the large saltwater crocodile in a billabong attacks sue, the entire setting at the billabong was a place I could relate to (Verhoeven, Davidson, & Coate, 2015). There was a place in South Korea where I visited when I was a child. The entire place was like a small marsh creek and it had an uncanny similarity to the billabong shown in the film. The representation of the men and women in the film are highlighted in a comical sense. It is a film that is totally circled around the character of Dundee and Sue, and the other characters are there just to keep the story moving. From my perspective, it was defiantly a new experience or in Australia, what we call a ‘Beaut experience’. The Aussie characters are jolly, over the top and comical to look at (Jackson et al., 2013). The animals used in the film were mainly a showcase to the heroic nature of Crocodile Dundee. His fights with the water buffalo, the snake and the crocodile were all shown in a sense that Dundee is strong enough to save Sue from any kind of situation.

History of Australian Cinema

Also in the film, it had a scene were Crocodile Dundee took part in an Aboriginal dance ceremony, that impressed Sue. What is actually beautiful in that scene is how it displayed the Aboriginal culture. Despite some stereotypical parts, there were actually very vivid description which showcased the Indigenous culture which very few people actually know about. Even when I read about the Aborigines I found many similar links that were similar to the film during this scene (Landman, 2017). Even today in Australia, the content related to Indigenous cinema is neglected to mass level. This is mainly due to political reasons and bad pedagogical experiences. In films like Crocodile Dundee, the Indigenous culture is indeed shown however from a comical or parody point of view. The dialogues also influence the cultural changes in a film as it shows or captures the central ideas of a film.


The elements of multiculturalism exist in Australian cinema industry and this can be traced from the time during the time of the World War II. During the 1945, the entire population of Australia was about seven million maximum. This was due to the non-indigenous people who had emigrated from Europe.  As there was a massive immigration of many cultures at that time, the Australian continent began to have mixed culture (Pakulski & Markowski, 2014). As it was a land full of multiculturalism, the effects of multi-culture began to inflict changes on the Cinema Industry of Australia. If I look few years ahead, on the existing date, due to the element of multiculturalism, Australian was able to produce veteran actors such as Mel Gibson, Guy Pearce, Geoffrey Rush, Hugh Jackson, Heath Ledger, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Worthington, Nichole Kidman, Cate Blanchett Naomi Watts, Margot Robbie and many more. By the 1980-90s’s during the time of Crocodile Dundee, many veteran actors rose to fame such as Toni Collette and Eric Bana. Films such as Blood Oath which released around that time also set the stage for Russell Crowe which was his first film.


However what I understood is that one of the main reason why National Cinema was an issue because of the idea that national identity was thought to be parochial and created racial issues. There cannot be a proper definition of national identity due to the concept of the Indigenous and Non-Indigenous culture (Klocker & Stanes, 2013). Even to this day I have found many problems related to racism and nationality in the Australian Cinema Industry. The concept of National Cinema was basically a direct response to the Hollywood industry that The Aussie land can bred their own talent. This is also very similar from I come from in South Korea but it came much later. There are also similarities in other Asian countries such as India, China or Japan and European countries like Germany, France and Italy.  National Cinema makes a lot of positive impact towards the audience as like Crocodile Dunee there are also many films like Kenny (2006) and Animal Kingdom (201) which are all part of the concept of National Cinema. All the three films were a box-office success. National Cinema is an identity that a particular cinema embraces as its own. Nationality is sometimes viewed as a monolithic and inflexible when it is contrasted with the genre of transnational that is more complex and multi-centered. National Cinema categorizes the people from both way of looking at the world as complete and setting up an identity from inside with which the audience can understand that the cinema was made by directors, actors, and everyone associate with it from the country. It is something to be proud of as a citizen or an audience (Knopf, 2013). The portal of the characters is also very much linked to that of the incidents from the country. Overall, I believe that the contents related to National Cinema gives an overview of the history of the country, no matter if it is directly identified or if it is indirectly shown.

References

Coate, B., Verhoeven, D., Arrowsmith, C., & Zemaityte, V. (2017). Feature film diversity on Australian cinema screens: implications for cultural diversity studies using big data. In Australian Screen in the 2000s (pp. 341-360). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Davies, J., Hill, R., Walsh, F. J., Sandford, M., Smyth, D., & Holmes, M. C. (2013). Innovation in management plans for community conserved areas: experiences from Australian indigenous protected areas. Ecology and Society, 18(2).

Jackson, D., Power, T., Sherwood, J., & Geia, L. (2013). Amazingly resilient Indigenous people! Using transformative learning to facilitate positive student engagement with sensitive material. Contemporary nurse, 46(1), 105-112.

Klocker, N., & Stanes, E. (2013). ‘Reel love’across ethnic boundaries? The extent and significance of inter-ethnic intimacy in Australian cinema. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(12), 2035-2054.

Knopf, K. (2013). Kangaroos, petrol, joints and sacred rocks: Australian cinema decolonized. Studies in Australasian Cinema, 7(2-3), 189-200.

Landman, J. (2017). The Tread of a White Man's Foot: Australian Pacific Colonialism and the Cinema, 1925-62. Canberra, ACT: Pandanus Books.

Pakulski, J., & Markowski, S. (2014). Globalisation, immigration and multiculturalism–the European and Australian experiences.

Paradies, Y. (2016). Beyond black and white: Essentialism, hybridity and indigeneity. In Handbook of Indigenous Peoples' Rights (pp. 44-54). Routledge.

Stoneham, M., Goodman, J., & Daube, M. (2014). The portrayal of Indigenous health in selected Australian media. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 5(1), 1-13.

Verhoeven, D., Davidson, A., & Coate, B. (2015). Australian films at large: expanding the evidence about Australian cinema performance. Studies in Australasian Cinema, 9(1), 7-20

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